Fatherhood’s First Stress, Part 1

To effect my daughter’s birth, my wife had to be induced into labor.  The doctors used a medicine which made the birthing process even more excruciating than normal.  I know this, so I should probably also know to be careful about admitting that I prefer induction to the alternative.  If you suspect that I was actually careful though, you haven’t been reading enough of my posts.

The story starts years ago on the afternoon of my wife’s due date, a fine fall Monday which took us to our midwife’s office for a regular check on our unborn baby’s health.   My wife, who had assumed a robust pumpkin shape in fitting with the season, was determined to receive good news, specifically that she would soon stop being pregnant.  Instead we heard that our unborn daughter, perhaps portending teenage drama, didn’t want to come out of her womb.  None of the usual pre-show signs had started; the midwife suggested that labor might not start for more than another week.

Just to be safe, she asked us to return the following day for an ultrasound, a convenient method of verifying that our metaphorical bun wouldn’t be harmed by her extended stay in Mommy’s oven.  Instead they discovered that said bun had been replaced by an adult hippo, or had at least grown to that size.  (I’m not sure why they needed an ultrasound to determine this.  They ought to have guessed from the size of my wife, which I would feel bad saying if I hadn’t already called her a pumpkin.)  After the ultrasound the doctor suggested that we consider induction, because letting the baby grow any more would increase the risk of complications.

Whenever a doctor says “complications,” I hear menacing movie music.   I’m pretty sure that, in the history of the planet, no doctor has ever begun a conversation by saying, “I’m sorry; there were complications,” and then gone on to reveal something mild:  “We had to remove that unsightly wart.”  Curiously, to continue my arbitrary comparison between newborns and teenagers,  this is the opposite of what I expect from teenage drama.   In my experience if a teenager describes something as complicated, I should expect something meaningless and trivial to follow:  “Can you believe it?  Becky sat with Suzie after school even though Suzie’s brother’s friend sent that text about Jennifer at the movies.  Oh, and I have this unsightly wart.”

Naturally, we submitted ourselves to the wisdom of medical professionals (but not teenaged ones) and agreed to schedule a time at the hospital to have a baby.  Then they told us that the only available time in the next week was that very same evening, in a little less than four hours.

That was how we found out that we had a little less than four hours left to enjoy the last of our pre-parenting time together.  The experience was almost surreal.  We went home, ate our usual sort of dinner, then sat on the couch for a couple of hours, watching television and basking in the peaceful normalcy of the moment.  We weren’t nervous and didn’t have to rush; we just spent time together.

After a little while, we got into our car and drove to the hospital.  When we got there our lives would change forever, but on the trip we held hands and made small talk as though it were any other trip.  The evening had settled in calmly; the streets hosted nearly no traffic.  I couldn’t have dreamed it better.

I have nothing but fond memories of that night.  My wife’s memory however, gravitates (justifiably I suppose) to what happened next.  Therein lies the difficulty.

Stay tuned because in Part 2, I reminisce about the wrong part of childbirth, my wife objects, and I tell a story about reality TV, embarrassing injury, and groggy attempts at heroics, one which is actually relevant to my very first stress as a father.

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